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The Thermostat Challenge


Try this thermostat challenge for 5 weeks and if you succeed, you will save hundreds of dollars in heating and cooling costs and reduce your family’s green house gas emissions by more than a ton every year. This challenge assumes that you have a centralized forced air heating and air conditioning system. If you have another system, you can adapt the challenge to fit your system.

Step 1 -

Pick a time and day each week to adjust your thermostat. Each week at the same time, turn your thermostat down (winter), or up (summer) by 1degC (2degF).

After 5 weeks, you will be living in home that is 5degC (10degF) cooler in winter and 5degC (10degF) warmer in summer. If you're saying to yourself "I can't do that, my family will freeze to death" or Oh I can't stand the heat", please read on to see how you can still live comfortably within your new temperature range.

Step 2 -

Start to re-think how you relate to your inside environment. Before centralized heating/cooling systems came along, people kept warm and cool in simple and creative ways. I am not suggesting we go back to using old-fashioned "Bed Warmers", but we can revert to using some tried and true methods for staying warm and comfortable in winter and adapt to a little warmer home in the summer.

The easiest and oldest method for personal warmth is wearing more clothing. Lightweight fleece vests, sweaters, and warm slippers or heavy socks can go a long way in keeping us comfortable in a cooler room. Of course the reverse holds true for the summer. Shed clothes when you start to feel warm. Replace long pants and shirts with shorts and t-shirts.

Another old method for keeping warm that is now convenient and safe (when done properly and with good equipment) is using space heaters in rooms that you spend a lot of time in. Living rooms, Family rooms and bedrooms are good candidates for space heaters and the newer units when used judiciously can be very efficient which means you can lower the thermostat setting on your central heating system and save money while you reduce your green house gas emissions. Turn off the space heaters when you go to sleep. Your bed covers will keep you warm and sleeping in a cooler room at night is a much healthier way to sleep. You may also consider using window air conditioners for these rooms in the summer heat. Newer units are more efficient and far less noisy than the old units and again you will be saving energy.

For rooms that you spend only short periods of time in, pantries, walk-in closets, mudrooms etc., keep the door to these rooms closed and shut or greatly restrict the airflow entering these rooms through the eating/cooling outlets. For the short period of time you spend in these rooms, the difference in temperature will have little effect. The same method holds true for rooms that are rarely used such as storage rooms and guest rooms. With guest rooms, it is an easy matter to open the heating/cooling vents and leave the door open when you know it will be used soon.

Other considerations are the amount of activity and sources of heat in rooms like kitchens and bathrooms. You are usually more active in these rooms, which means you are producing body heat to keep you warm. The heat produced by appliances, - ovens, dryers and washing machines, and the heat produced by using hot water when running a bath or taking a shower should easily compensate for a lower thermostat setting. To help keep cool in the summer, do more cooking outside and use a clothesline instead of that high energy consuming and heat producing dryer.

If you don't have a programmable thermostat, please get one. That way you can save even more by programming the unit to an even lower setting for when you are not at home or for overnight. Again the reverse is true for the summer. Set the thermostat so that that your air conditioning unit is basically off when you are not at home. You can have it come on an hour or so before you are expected to arrive at home and it should be quite comfortable when you walk in. Remember though, your goal is to keep the temperature 5degC (10degF) warmer than you have been used to in the past.

You should have already improved the insulation properties and air tightness in your home, but you may still feel cool/warm drafts when there is a strong wind hitting your house. Investigate where these drafts are coming from and seal them as best you can. Also get in the habit of closing all your window coverings at nighttime. This is true for both summer and winter.

Be creative and come up with your own ideas on how you can improve the comfort level of your home without resorting to touching that thermostat. This may be a good time to start doing some of the things you promised yourself you were going to do. Lose weight, get fit, spend more time with the children etc. The physical activity from exercising or playing tag with the kids will soon have you thinking of turning the thermostat down even more. In the summer, be sure to take advantage of cross breezes instead of keeping the house closed up and the air conditioner blasting away. Keep the blinds closed where the sun is shinning directly in and spend more time in the lower levels of the home (rec room for instance) where the temperature is lower. Play with the kids running through the sprinkler in the backyard while you are watering the grass.

There are many other ways to keep away from that thermostat, and I am sure you can come up with some to fit your lifestyle. Also keep in mind that even if you decide you can't make it all the way to the 5degC(10degF) goal, a shift of just a few degrees will make you a winner in the long run.

Step 3 -

Track the results to provide validation for all of your efforts. Compare your energy bills to the bills you received last year at the same time adjusting for any rate increases or decreases (Hah). This of course won't be entirely accurate because of the differences that may have incurred during the comparison periods but it should provide more than adequate validation of the challenge and motivation for continuing to save energy and reduce your family's carbon footprint.......


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